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Publication numberUS7517919 B2
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 10/957,782
Publication dateApr 14, 2009
Filing dateOct 4, 2004
Priority dateJun 6, 2002
Fee statusPaid
Also published asCA2429930A1, CA2429930C, DE60300403D1, DE60300403T2, EP1369135A1, EP1369135B1, US7714036, US8030370, US8324291, US8680173, US20030229155, US20050043431, US20090105439, US20100197881, US20120029160, US20130046042
Publication number10957782, 957782, US 7517919 B2, US 7517919B2, US-B2-7517919, US7517919 B2, US7517919B2
InventorsAiguo Wang, John H. Dumbleton, Aaron Essner, Shi-Shen Yau
Original AssigneeHowmedica Osteonics Corp.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
High molecular weight; irradiation; annealing; wear and oxidation resistance
US 7517919 B2
Abstract
A method of producing an improved polyethylene, especially an ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene utilizes a sequential irradiation and annealing process to form a highly cross-linked polyethylene material. The use of sequential irradiation followed by sequential annealing after each irradiation allows each dose of irradiation in the series of doses to be relatively low while achieving a total dose which is sufficiently high to cross-link the material. The process may either be applied to a preformed material such as a rod or bar or sheet made from polyethylene resin or may be applied to a finished polyethylene part. If applied to a finished polyethylene part, the irradiation and annealing must be accomplished with the polyethylene material not in contact with oxygen at a concentration greater than 1% oxygen volume by volume. When applied to a preform, such as a rod, the annealing of the bulk polymer part of the rod from which the finished part is made must take place on the rod before the implant is machined therefrom and exposed to oxygen.
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Claims(9)
1. A method for increasing the wear resistance of an ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) medical implant comprising:
irradiating a preformed ultra high molecular weight polyethylene in a solid state at least three times to a desired total radiation dose of 5 to 10 MRad; and
heating the preformed UHMWPE after each irradiation for at least about 8 hours at a temperature from about 110° C. to about 135° C. but below the melting point followed by cooling after each heating.
2. The method for increasing the wear resistance as set forth in claim 1, wherein the total radiation dose is 9 MRad.
3. The method for increasing the wear resistance as set forth in claim 2, wherein an incremental dose for each irradiation is 3 MRad.
4. The method for increasing the wear resistance as set forth in claim 1, wherein the weight average molecular weight of the UHMWPE is 106 to 107 grams per mole prior to cross-linking with irradiation.
5. The method as set forth in claim 1 further including the step of machining the preformed UHMWPE into a medical implant.
6. The method as set forth in claim 1 where the irradiating and heating are performed on the preformed polyethylene prior to forming the medical implant to a final implantable shape.
7. A method of making an ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) medical implant comprising irradiating the UHMWPE at least three times to a total dose of 5 to 10 MRad and heating for at least about 8 hours at a temperature from 110° C. to 135° C. but lower than the melting point of the UHMWPE after each irradiation followed by cooling after each heating.
8. The method as set forth in claim 7, wherein the UHMWPE is cross-linked by a total radiation dose is about 9 MRad.
9. The method as set forth in claim 7 where the irradiating and heating are performed on the UHMWPE prior to forming the medical implant to a final implantable shape.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCED TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/454,815 filed Jun. 4, 2003 now abandoned which claimed the benefit of filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/386,660 filed on Jun. 6, 2002, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to medical implants formed of a polymeric material such as ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, with superior oxidation and wear resistance produced by a sequential irradiation and annealing process.

Various polymer systems have been used for the preparation of artificial prostheses for biomedical use, particularly orthopedic applications. Among them, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is widely used for articulation surfaces in artificial knee, hip, and other joint replacements. Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) has been defined as those linear polyethylenes which have a relative viscosity of 2.3 or greater at a solution concentration of 0.05% at 135° C. in decahydronaphthalene. The nominal weight—average molecular weight is at least 400,000 and up to 10,000,000 and usually from three to six million. The manufacturing process begins with the polymer being supplied as fine powder which is consolidated into various forms, such as rods and slabs, using ram extrusion or compression molding. Afterwards, the consolidated rods or slabs are machined into the final shape of the orthopedic implant components. Alternatively, the component can be produced by compression molding of the UHMWPE resin powder.

All components must then go through a sterilization procedure prior to use, but usually after being packaged. There exists several sterilization methods which can be utilized for medical applications, such as the use of ethylene oxide, gas plasma, heat, or radiation. However, applying heat to a packaged polymeric medical product can destroy either the integrity of the packaging material (particularly the seal, which prevents bacteria from going into the package after the sterilization step) or the product itself.

It has been recognized that regardless of the radiation type, the high energy beam causes generation of free radicals in polymers during radiation. It has also been recognized that the amount or number of free radicals generated is dependent upon the radiation dose received by the polymers and that the distribution of free radicals in the polymeric implant depends upon the geometry of the component, the type of polymer, the dose rate, and the type of radiation beam. The generation of free radicals can be described by the following reaction (which uses polyolefin and gamma ray irradiation for illustration):

Depending on whether or not oxygen is present, primary free radicals r• will react with oxygen and the polymer according to the following reactions as described in “Radiation Effects on Polymers,” edited by Roger L. Clough and Shalaby W. Shalaby, published by American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., 1991.

In the presence of oxygen

In radiation in air, primary free radicals r• will react with oxygen to form peroxyl free radicals r02•, which then react with polyolefin (such as UHMWPE) to start the oxidative chain scission reactions (reactions 2 through 6). Through these reactions, material properties of the plastic, such as molecular weight, tensile and wear properties, are degraded.

It has been found that the hydroperoxides (rOOH and POOH) formed in reactions 3 and 5 will slowly break down as shown in reaction 7 to initiate post-radiation degradation. Reactions 8 and 9 represent termination steps of free radicals to form ester or carbon-carbon cross-links. Depending on the type of polymer, the extent of reactions 8 and 9 in relation to reactions 2 through 7 may vary. For irradiated UHMWPE, a value of 0.3 for the ratio of chain scission to cross-linking has been obtained, indicating that even though cross-linking is a dominant mechanism, a significant amount of chain scission occurs in irradiated polyethylene.

By applying radiation in an inert atmosphere, since there is no oxidant present, the primary free radicals r• or secondary free radicals P• can only react with other neighboring free radicals to form carbon-carbon cross-links, according to reactions 10 through 12 below. If all the free radicals react through reactions 10 through 12, there will be no chain scission and there will be no molecular weight degradation. Furthermore, the extent of cross-linking is increased over the original polymer prior to irradiation. On the other hand, if not all the free radicals formed are combined through reactions 10, 11 and 12, then some free radicals will remain in the plastic component.

In an Inert Atmosphere
r•+polyolefin - - - P•  (10)
2 r• - - - r-r (C—C cross-linking)  (11)
2 P• - - - P—P (C—C cross-linking)  (12)

It is recognized that the fewer the free radicals, the better the polymer retains its physical properties over time. The greater the number of free radicals, the greater the degree of molecular weight and polymer property degradation will occur. Applicant has discovered that the extent of completion of free radical cross-linking reactions is dependent on the reaction rates and the time period given for reaction to occur.

UHMWPE is commonly used to make prosthetic joints such as artificial hip joints. In recent years, it has been found that tissue necrosis and interface osteolysis may occur in response to UHMWPE wear debris. For example, wear of acetabular cups of UHMWPE in artificial hip joints may introduce microscopic wear particles into the surrounding tissues.

Improving the wear resistance of the UHMWPE socket and, thereby, reducing the rate of production of wear debris may extend the useful life of artificial joints and permit them to be used successfully in younger patients. Consequently, numerous modifications in physical properties of UHMWPE have been proposed to improve its wear resistance.

It is known in the art that ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) can be cross-linked by irradiation with high energy radiation, for example gamma radiation, in an inert atmosphere or vacuum. Exposure of UHMWPE to gamma irradiation induces a number of free-radical reactions in the polymer. One of these is cross-linking. This cross-linking creates a 3-dimensional network in the polymer which renders it more resistant to adhesive wear in multiple directions. The free radicals formed upon irradiation of UHMWPE can also participate in oxidation which reduces the molecular weight of the polymer via chain scission, leading to degradation of physical properties, embrittlement and a significant increase in wear rate. The free radicals are very long-lived (greater than eight years), so that oxidation continues over a very long period of time resulting in an increase in the wear rate as a result of oxidation over the life of the implant.

Sun et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,414,049, the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference, broadly discloses the use of radiation to form free radicals and heat to form cross-links between the free radicals prior to oxidation.

Hyun et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,168,626 relates to a process for forming oriented UHMWPE materials for use in artificial joints by irradiating with low doses of high-energy radiation in an inert gas or vacuum to cross-link the material to a low degree, heating the irradiated material to a temperature at which compressive deformation is possible, preferably to a temperature near the melting point or higher, and performing compressive deformation followed by cooling and solidifying the material. The oriented UHMWPE materials have improved wear resistance. Medical implants may be machined from the oriented materials or molded directly during the compressive deformation step. The anisotropic nature of the oriented materials may render them susceptible to deformation after machining into implants.

Salovey et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,228,900, the teachings of which are incorporated by reference, relates to a method for enhancing the wear-resistance of polymers, including UHMWPE, by cross-linking them via irradiation in the melt.

Saum et al. U.S. Pat. No. 6,316,158 relates to a process for treating UHMWPE using irradiation followed by thermally treating the polyethylene at a temperature greater than 150° C. to recombine cross-links and eliminate free radicals.

Several other prior art patents attempt to provide methods which enhance UHMWPE physical properties. European Patent Application 0 177 522 81 relates to UHMWPE powders being heated and compressed into a homogeneously melted crystallized morphology with no grain memory of the UHMWPE powder particles and with enhanced modulus and strength. U.S. Pat. No. 5,037,928 relates to a prescribed heating and cooling process for preparing a UHMWPE exhibiting a combination of properties including a creep resistance of less than 1% (under exposure to a temperature of 23° C. and a relative humidity of 50% for 24 hours under a compression of 1000 psi) without sacrificing tensile and flexural properties. U.K. Patent Application GB 2 180 815 A relates to a packaging method where a medical device which is sealed in a sterile bag, after radiation/sterilization, is hermetically sealed in a wrapping member of oxygen-impermeable material together with a deoxidizing agent for prevention of post-irradiation oxidation.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,153,039 relates to a high density polyethylene article with oxygen barrier properties. U.S. Pat. No. 5,160,464 relates to a vacuum polymer irradiation process.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method for providing a polymeric material, such as UHMWPE, with superior oxidation resistance, mechanical strength and wear properties. For the purpose of illustration, UHMWPE will be used as an example to describe the invention. However, all the theories and processes described hereafter should also apply to other polymeric materials such as polypropylene, high density polyethylene, polyhydrocarbons, polyester, nylon, polyurethane, polycarbonates and poly(methylmethcrylate) unless otherwise stated. The method involves using a series of relatively low doses of radiation with an annealing process after each dose.

As stated above, UHMWPE polymer is very stable and has very good resistance to aggressive media except for strong oxidizing acids. Upon irradiation, free radicals are formed which cause UHMWPE to become activated for chemical reactions and physical changes. Possible chemical reactions include reacting with oxygen, water, body fluids, and other chemical compounds while physical changes include density, crystallinity, color, and other physical properties. In the present invention, the sequential radiation and annealing process greatly improves the physical properties of UHMWPE when compared to applying the same total radiation dose in one step. Furthermore, this process does not employ stabilizers, antioxidants, or any other chemical compounds which may have potentially adverse effects in biomedical or orthopedic applications.

It is also known that at relatively low dose levels (<5 MRads) of irradiation residual free radicals are mostly trapped in the crystalline region while most free radicals crosslink in the amorphous region. There is a steep free radical concentration gradient across the crystalline-amorphous boundary, which provides a significant driving force for free radicals to diffuse into the amorphous region where they can crosslink upon subsequent annealing. However, if the polyethylene is allowed to continuously accumulate higher radiation doses without interruptive annealing, molecules in the amorphous region become more and more stiffened due to increased crosslinking. As a result, the amorphous region traps more and more free radicals. This leads to a diminished free radical gradient across the crystalline-amorphous boundary, thereby reducing the driving force for free radical diffusion upon subsequent annealing. By limiting the incremental dose to below 5 MRads and preferably below 3.5 MRads and following with annealing, a relatively higher free radical diffusion driving force can be maintained, allowing a more efficient free radical reduction upon annealing. If higher radiation doses are used, there could be cross-linking at the chain folded crystal surfaces. This could hamper the movement of free radicals from the crystal to the amorphous regions.

It has been found that polyethylene crystallinity increases continuously with increasing radiation-doses due to chain-scission (approximately 55% before radiation, increasing to 60% at 3.0 MRads, and to 65% at 10 MRads).

As the crystallinity increases with increasing dose of radiation, more residual free radicals are created and stored in the extra crystalline regions, which makes it increasingly more difficult to eliminate free radicals by annealing below the melt temperature. However, treating above the melting temperature (re-melting) significantly alters the crystallinity and crystal morphology which leads to significant reduction in mechanical properties such as yield strength and ultimate tensile strength and creep resistance and these properties are important for the structural integrity of the implant.

An orthopedic preformed material such as a rod, bar or compression molded sheet for the subsequent production of a medical implant such as an acetabular or tibial implant with improved wear resistance is made from a polyethylene material cross-linked at least twice by irradiation and thermally treated by annealing after each irradiation. The material is cross-linked by a total radiation dose of from about 2 MRads to 100 MRads and preferably between 5 MRads and 10 MRads. The incremental dose for each irradiation is between about 2 MRads and about 5 MRads. The weight average molecular weight of the material is over 400,000.

The annealing takes place at a temperature greater than 25° C., preferably between 110° C. and 135° C. but less than the melting point. Generally, the annealing takes place for a time and temperature selected to be at least equivalent to heating the irradiated material at 50° C. for 144 hours as defined by Arrenhius' equation 14. The material is heated for at least about 4 hours and then cooled to room temperature for the subsequent irradiation in the series.

By limiting the incremental dose to below 5 MRads and preferably below 3.5 MRads and following with annealing, the crystallinity will fluctuate between 55% and 60% (instead of 55-65%) and hence both the amount of chain-scission and residual free-radical concentration can be significantly reduced.

The polyethylene of the present invention may be in the form of a preformed rod or sheet with a subsequent production of a medical implant with improved wear resistance. The preformed rod or sheet is cross-linked at least twice by irradiation and thermally treated by annealing after each radiation. The incremental dose for each radiation is preferably between about 2 and 5 MRads with the total dose between 2 and 100 MRads and preferably between 5 and 10 MRads.

After each irradiation, the preformed material is annealed either in air or in an inner atmosphere at a temperature of greater than 25° C. and preferably less than 135° C. or the melting point. Preferably, the annealing takes place for a time and temperature selected to be at least equivalent to heating the irradiated material at 50° C. for 144 hours as defined by Arrenhius' equation (14). Generally, each heat treatment lasts for at least 4 hours and preferably about 8 hours.

The preformed polyethylene material is then machined into a medical implant or other device. If the irradiation process occurred in air, then the entire outer skin to about 2 mm deep is removed from the preform prior to machining the medical implant or other device. If the process was done in a vacuum or an inner atmosphere such a nitrogen, then the outer skin may be retained.

The end-results of reduced chain-scission and free-radical concentration are improved mechanical properties, improved oxidation resistance and enhanced wear resistance.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows the oxidation index profiles of the specimens of Example 8; and

FIG. 2 shows the oxidation index profiles of the specimens of Example 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Abbreviations used in this application are as follows:

UHMW—ultra-high molecular weight

UHMWPE—ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene

HMW—high molecular weight

HMWPE—high molecular weight polyethylene

This invention provides a method for improving the wear resistance of a polymer by crosslinking (preferably the bearing surface of the polymer) and then thermally treating the polymer, and the resulting polymer. Preferably, the most oxidized surface of the polymer is also removed. Also presented are the methods for using the polymeric compositions for making products and the resulting products, e.g., in vivo implants.

The method of the invention utilizes at least two separate irradiations for crosslinking a polymer followed by a like number of thermal treatments to decrease the free radicals to produce either a treated fully formed or a preformed polymeric composition. The term “preformed polymeric composition” means that the polymeric composition is not in a final desired shape or from (i.e., not a final product). For example, where the final product of the preformed polymeric composition is an acetabular cup, the at least two irradiations and thermal treatments of the polymer could be performed at pre-acetabular cup shape, such as when the preformed polymeric composition is in the form of a solid bar or block. Of course, the process of the present invention could be applied to a fully formed implant if the process is done with the implant in an oxygen reduced atmosphere.

In the present invention, the wear resistance of a polymer is improved by crosslinking. The crosslinking can be achieved by various methods known in the art, for example, by irradiation from a gamma radiation source or from an electron beam, or by photocrosslinking. The preferred method for crosslinking the polymer is by gamma irradiation. The polymer is preferably crosslinked in the form of an extruded bar or molded block.

In the preferred method, the crosslinked polymer is subjected to thermal treatment such as by annealing (i.e. heated above at or below the melting temperature of the crosslinked polymer) to produce the preformed polymeric composition.

In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the outer layer of the resulting preformed polymeric composition, which is generally the most oxidized and least crosslinked and, thus, least wear resistant, is removed. For example, the bearing surface of the preformed polymeric composition may be fashioned from inside, e.g., by machining away the surface of the irradiated and thermally treated composition before or during fashioning into the final product, e.g., into an implant. Bearing surfaces are surfaces which are in moving contact, e.g., in a sliding, pivoting, or rotating relationship to one another.

High molecular weight (HMW) and ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polymers are preferred, such as HMW polyethylene (HMWPE), UHMW polyethylene (UHMWPE), and UHMW polypropylene. HMW polymers have molecular weights ranging from about 105 grams per mole to just below 106. UHMW polymers have molecular weights equal to or higher than 106 grams per mole, preferably from 106 to about 107. The polymers are generally between about 400,000 grams per mole to about 10,000,000 and are preferably polyolefinic materials.

For implants, the preferred polymers are those that are wear resistant and have exceptional chemical resistance. UHMWPE is the most preferred polymer as it is known for these properties and is currently widely used to make acetabular cups for total hip prostheses and components of other joint replacements. Examples of UHMWPE are those having molecular weight ranging from about 1 to 8×106 grams per mole, examples of which are: GUR 1150 or 1050 (Hoechst-Celanese Corporation, League City, Tex.) with a weight average molecular weight of 5 to 6×106 grams per mole; GUR 1130 with a weight average molecular weight of 3 to 4×106; GUR 1120 or 1020 with a weight average molecular weight of 3 to 4×106; RCH 1000 (Hoechst-Celanese Corp.) with a weight average of molecular weight of 4×106 and HiFax 1900 of 2 to 4×106 (HiMont, Elkton, Md.). Historically, companies which make implants have used polyethylenes such as HIFAX 1900, GUR 1020, GUR 1050, GUR 1120 and GUR 1150 for making acetabular cups.

Sterilization Methods: All polymeric products must be sterilized by a suitable method prior to implanting in the human body. For the formed crosslinked and thermally treated polymeric compositions (i.e., the final products) of the present invention, it is preferable that the products be sterilized by a non-radiation based method, such as ethylene oxide or gas plasma, in order not to induce additional crosslinking free radicals and/or oxidation of the previously treated preformed polymeric composition. Compared to radiation sterilization, a non-radiation sterilization method has a minor effect on the other important physical characteristics of the product.

The degree of crystallinity can be determined using methods known in the art, e.g. by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), which is generally used to assess the crystallinity and melting behavior of a polymer. Wang, X. & Salovey, R., J. App. Polymer Sci., 34:593-599 (1987).

Wide-angle X-ray scattering from the resulting polymer can also be used to further confirm the degree of crystallinity of the polymer, e.g. as described in Spruiell, J. E., & Clark, E. S., in “Methods of Experimental-Physics,” L. Marton & C. Marton, Eds., Vol. 16, Part B, Academic Press, New York (1980). Other methods for determining the degree of crystallinity of the resulting polymer may include Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), e.g., as described in “Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy And Its Application To Polymeric Materials,” John Wiley and Sons, New York, U.S.A. (1982)} and density measurement (ASTM D1505-68). Measurements of the gel content and swelling are generally used to characterize crosslink distributions in polymers; the procedure is described in Ding, Z. Y., et al., J. Polymer Sci., Polymer Chem., 29:1035-38 (1990). FTIR can also be used to assess the depth profiles of oxidation as well as other chemical changes such as unsaturation {Nagy, E. V. & Li, S., “A Fourier transform infrared technique for the evaluation of polyethylene orthopedic bearing materials,” Trans. Soc. for Biomaterials, 13:109 (1990); Shinde, A. & Salovey, R., J. Polymer Sci., Polm. Phys. Ed., 23:1681-1689 (1985)}.

Another aspect of the invention presents a process for making implants using the preformed polymeric composition of the present invention. The preformed polymeric composition may be shaped, e.g., machined, into the appropriate implants using methods known in the art. Preferably, the shaping process, such as machining, removing the oxidized surface of the composition.

The preformed polymeric compositions of the present invention can be used in any situation where a polymer, especially UHMWPE, is called for, but especially in situations where high wear resistance is desired. More particularly, these preformed polymeric compositions are useful for making implants.

An important aspect of this invention presents implants that are made with the above preformed polymeric compositions or according to the methods presented herein. In particular, the implants are produced from preformed polymeric composition made of UHMWPE irradiated and crosslinked at least twice each time followed by annealing and then removing the oxidized surface layer and then fabricating into a final shape. The preformed polymeric composition of the present invention can be used to make the acetabular cup, or the insert or liner of the cup, or trunnion bearings (e.g. between the modular head and the hip stem). In the knee joint, the tibial plateau (femoro-tibial articulation), the patellar button (patello-femoral articulation), and/or other bearing components, depending on the design of the artificial knee joint. These would include application to mobile bearing knees where articulation between the tibial insert and tibial tray occurs. In the shoulder, the process can be used in the glenoid component. In the ankle joint, the preformed polymeric composition can be used to make the talar surface (tibiotalar articulation) and other bearing components. In the elbow joint, the preformed polymeric composition can be used to make the radio-humeral joint, ulno-humeral joint, and other bearing components. In the spine, the preformed polymeric composition can be used to make intervertebral disk replacement and facet joint replacement. The preformed polymeric composition can also be made into temporo-mandibular joint (jaw) and finger joints. The above are by way-of example, and are not meant to be limiting.

The following discusses the first and second aspects of the invention in more detail.

First Aspect of the Invention: Polymeric Compositions with Increased Wear Resistance.

The first aspect of the invention provides preformed polymeric compositions which are wear resistant and useful for making in vivo implants. In this aspect, for polymers in general, and more preferably UHMW and HMW polymers, and most preferably UHMWPE and HMWPE, the at least two (2) incremental irradiation doses are preferably from about 1 to about 100 Mrad, and more preferably, from about 2 to about 5 Mrad. This most preferable range is based on achieving a reasonable balance between improved wear resistance and minimal degradation of other important physical properties. The total dose is between 2 and 100 MRad and more preferably 5 to about 10 MRads.

In vivo implants of the present invention, i.e., irradiated within the above dose ranges are expected to function in vivo without mechanical failure. The UHMWPE acetabular cups used by Oonishi et al. [in Radiat. Phys. Chem., 39:495-504 (1992)] were irradiated to 100 Mrad and functioned in vivo without reported mechanical failure as long as 26 years of clinical use. Furthermore, it is surprising that, as shown in the EXAMPLES, acetabular cups from the preformed polymeric composition prepared according to the present invention, but irradiated to much less than 100 Mrad, exhibited much higher wear resistance than reported by Oonishi et al.

On the other hand, if a user is primarily concerned with reducing wear, and other physical properties are of secondary concern, then a higher dose than the above stipulated most preferable range (e.g., 5 to 10 Mrad) may be appropriate, or vice versa (as illustrated in the detailed examples in the following section). The optimum radiation dose is preferably based on the total dose received at the level of the bearing surface in the final product. Gamma radiation is preferred.

The preferred annealing temperature after each sequential irradiation is below the melting temperature of the UHMWPE which is generally below 135° C.

The annealing temperature is preferably from about room temperature to below the melting temperature of the irradiated polymer; more preferably from about 90° C. to about 1° C. below the melting temperature of the irradiated polymer; and most preferably from about 110° C. to about 130° C. For example, UHMWPE may be annealed at a temperature from about 25° C. to about 140° C., preferably from about 50° C. to about 135° C. and more preferably from about 80° C. to about 135° C. and most preferably between 110° C. to 130° C. The annealing period is preferably from about 2 hours to about 7 days, and more preferably from about 7 hours to about 5 days and most preferably from about 10 hours to about 24 hours.

Instead of using the above range of radiation dose as a criterion, the appropriate amount of crosslinking may be determined based on the degree of swelling, gel content, or molecular weight between crosslinks after thermal treatment. This alternative is based on the applicant's findings (detailed below) that acetabular cups made from UHMWPE falling within a preferred range of these physical parameters have reduced or non-detectable wear. The ranges of these physical parameters include one or more of the following: a degree of swelling of between about 1.7 to about 5.3; molecular weight between crosslinks of between about 400 to about 8400 g/mol; and a gel content of between about 95% to about 99%. A preferred polymer or final product has one or more, and preferably all, of the above characteristics. These parameters can also be used as starting points in the second aspect of the invention (as illustrated by the flowchart, discussed below) for determining the desired radiation dose to balance the improvement in wear resistance with other desired physical or chemical properties, such as polymer strength or stiffness.

After crosslinking and thermal treatment, preferably, the most oxidized surface of the preformed polymeric composition is removed. The depth profiles of oxidation of the preformed polymeric composition can be determined by methods known in the art, such as FTIR. In general, the most oxidized surface of preformed polymeric composition which is exposed to air is removed, e.g. by machining, before or while fashioning the preformed polymeric composition into the final product. Since oxygen diffuses through the polyethylene with time, the sequential irradiation/annealing preferably should be completed prior to oxygen diffusing in high concentrations to the area of the preform from which the final part is made.

As noted above, the most preferable range of total dose for crosslinking radiation (i.e., from 5 to 10 Mrad) was based on Wang et al. “Tribology International” Vol. 3, No. 123 (1998) pp. 17-35. After irradiation in air the gap in time before annealing is preferably seven days but at least before any oxygen diffuses into the area of the rod from which the implant is made. It has been found that it takes at least seven days to diffuse through the surface layer.

Free radicals generated during an irradiation step should be reduced to an acceptable level by annealing before exposure to oxygen. The portion of the material from which the implant is made contains free radicals and if it is exposed to air or other oxidants after the manufacturing process, oxidation will occur. The bulk portion of the polymer from which the implant is to be made should be annealed at an elevated temperature while out of contact with oxygen for a prescribed time. This is because the rate of free radical reactions (reactions 10 through 12) increases with increasing temperature, according to the following general expressions:

r · t = k 1 [ r · ] and P · t = k 2 [ P · ] ( 13 )

Compared to room temperature, an elevated temperature not only increases the reaction rate constants, k1 and k2, but also helps free radicals r• and P• to migrate in the plastic matrix to meet other neighboring free radicals for cross-linking reactions. In general, the desired elevated temperature is between room temperature to below the melting point of the polymer. For UHMWPE, this temperature range is between about 25° C. and about 140° C. It is to be noted that the higher the temperature used, the shorter the time period needed to combine free radicals. Additionally, due to the high viscosity of a UHMWPE melt, the formed UHMWPE often contains residual (internal) stress caused by incomplete relaxation during the cooling process, which is the last step of the forming process. The annealing process described herein will also help to eliminate or reduce the residual stress. A residual stress contained in a plastic matrix can cause dimensional instability and is in general undesirable.

In the preferred embodiment, the sequential irradiation followed by sequential annealing after each irradiation is performed in air on a preform such as an extruded rod, bar or compression molded sheet made from polyethylene and preferably UHMWPE. Obviously, the final sequential annealing must take place prior to the bulk material of the final part or implant being exposed to air. Normally, it takes at least seven days for-atmospheric oxygen to diffuse through the outer layer of polyethylene and deeply enough into rod, bar or sheet to effect the bulk polyethylene forming the final part. Therefore, the last annealing in the sequence preferably should take place prior to the time required for the oxygen to diffuse deeply into the rod. Of course, the more material which must be machined off to reach the finished part, the longer one can wait for the completion of the sequential irradiation and annealing process.

If the sequential irradiation/annealing process is performed on a final product, such as an acetabular cup, after machining, the polymeric component is preferably packaged in an air tight package in an oxidant-free atmosphere, i.e. less than 1% volume by volume. Thus, all air and moisture must be removed from the package prior to the sealing step. Machines to accomplish this are commercially available, such as from Orics Industries Inc., College Point, N.Y., which flush the package with a chosen inert gas, vacuum the container, flush the container for the second time, and then heat seal the container with a lid. In general, less than 0.5% (volume by volume) oxygen concentration can be obtained consistently. An example of a suitable oxidant impermeable (air tight) packaging material is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Other examples of oxidant impermeable packaging material is poly(ethylene vinyl alcohol) and aluminum foil, whose oxygen and water vapor transmission rates are essentially zero. All these materials are commercially available. Several other suitable commercial packaging materials utilize a layer structure to form a composite material with superior oxygen and moisture barrier properties. An example of this type is a layered composite comprised of polypropylene/poly (ethylene vinyl alcohol)/polypropylene.

With a final product, following each irradiation step, the heat treatment or annealing step should be performed while the implant is out of contact with oxygen or in an inert atmosphere and at an elevated temperature to cause free radicals to form cross-links without oxidation. If proper packaging materials and processes are used and oxidant transmission rates are minimal, then the oxidant-free atmosphere can be maintained in the package and a regular oven with air circulation can be used for heat treatment after sterilization. To absolutely ensure that no oxidants leak into the package, the oven may be operated under a vacuum or purged with an inert gas. In general, if a higher temperature is used, a shorter time period is required to achieve a prescribed level of oxidation resistance and cross-linking. In many cases, the relationship between the reaction temperature and the reaction rate follows the well-known Arrhennius equation:
k 1 or k 2 =A*exp(−ΔH/RT)  (14)

where k1 and k2 are reaction rate constants from reactions 13 and 14

A is a reaction dependent constant

ΔH is activation energy of reaction

T is absolute temperature (K)

R is the universal gas constant.

It is very important to ensure that the number of free radicals has been reduced to a minimal or an accepted level by the heat treatment. This is because the presence of an oxidant causes not only the oxidation of pre-existing free radicals, but also the formation of new free radicals via reactions 2 through 7. When the number of free radicals grows, the extent of oxidation and the oxidation rate will increase according to the following equations:

r · t = k 3 [ r · ] [ O 2 ] and P · t = k 4 [ P · ] [ 0 2 ] ( 15 )

Where free radicals r• and P• can grow in number in the presence of oxidants and in turn increase the oxidation rates. It is also to be noted that the oxidation reaction rate constants k3 and k4 increase with increasing temperature, similar to k1 and k2. Therefore, to determine if a certain level of residual free radicals is acceptable or not, it is required to evaluate specific material properties after the plastic sample is stored or aged at the application temperature for a time period which is equal to or longer than the time period intended for the application of the plastic component. An alternative to the method to assess the aging effect is to raise the aging temperature of the plastic sample for a shorter time period. This will increase the reaction rate constants k3 and k4 significantly and shorten the aging time. It has been found that an acceptable level of residual free radicals is 1.0×1017/g for UHMWPE use for orthopedic implants.

EXAMPLE I

As stated above, the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene extruded rod is irradiated for a sufficient time for an accumulated incremental dose of between 2 and 5 (MRads) (20 to 50 kGy). After this irradiation step, the extruded rod is annealed in air preferably at a temperature below its melting point, preferably at less than 135° C. and more preferably between 110° C. and 130° C. The irradiation and annealing steps are then repeated two or more times so that the total radiation dose is between 4 and 15 MRads (50 to 150 kGy). In this example, the rod is irradiated for a total dose of 3 MRad and then annealed at 130° C. for 24 hours, allowed to cool to room temperature and sit for 3 days and then reirradiated for a dose of 3.0 MRads (a total dose of 6 MRads) again annealed at 130° C. for 24 hours, allowed to cool at room temperature and sit for an additional 3 days and then irradiated a third time with a 3.0 MRad dose (for a total of 9 MRads) and again annealed at 130° C. for 24 hours. The rod is cooled to room temperature and is then moved into the manufacturing process which forms the orthopedic implant by machining.

The above example can also be applied to compression molded sheet with, for example, a tibial component being manufactured out of the sequentially irradiated and annealed material.

In the preferred embodiment, the total radiation dose can be anywhere between 5 and 15 MRads and most preferably 9 MRads applied in three doses of 3 MRads, as done in the above example. The length of time between sequential irradiation is preferably between 3 to 7 days. While the annealing step is preferably performed after the irradiation step, it is possible to heat the rod to the annealing temperatures and irradiate it sequentially in the heated state. The rod may be allowed to cool between doses or can be maintained at the elevated temperatures for the entire series of doses.

EXAMPLE II

A machined tibial implant in its final form is packaged in an oxygen reduced atmosphere having an oxygen concentration less than 1% volume by volume. The packaged implant is then processed as described in Example I through a series of three (3) irradiation and annealing cycles as described above with the total radiation dose being 9 MRads. The implant was then boxed and ready for final shipping and use.

EXAMPLE III

Two ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene rods (one of compression molded GUR 1020 and the other of ram extruded GUR 1050) with a cross-section profile of 2.5-inch×3.5-inch (GUR 1020) and 3.5-inch diameter (GUR 1050), respectively, were used. Lengths of these rods were sectioned into 18-inch lengths; three 18-inch rods (staggered and separated by small paper boxes) were packaged in a paper carton before the sequential radiation process. The purpose of the packaging and staggering was to reduce the possibility of blocking the radiation (gamma rays) to each individual rod during the process.

The rods went through the following sequential process in air:

1. Each rod received a nominal dose of 30 kGy gamma radiation;

2. Each was then annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours; and

3. Steps 1 and 2 were repeated two more times. Preferably, the repeated steps occurred within three days each.

While the process was done in air, it could be performed in an inert atmosphere such as nitrogen.

The rods received a nominal 90 kGy total dosage of gamma radiation after the completion of the above sequential process. The GUR 1020 rod is designated as sample “A” and the GUR 1050 rod as sample “B”. When done in air, 2 mm of the entire outer surface of each rod is removed after the entire process is complete.

Control—The following materials/process had been selected as “Control”:

1. The conventionally (in nitrogen or vacuum N2VAC) processed molded GUR 1020 and extruded GUR 1050 rods received in a single dose 30 kGy gamma radiation sterilization in nitrogen but no annealing and were designated samples “C” and “D,” respectively.

2. A GUR 1050 rod that received 90 kGy total dose (non-sequentially) followed by annealing at 130° C. for 8 hours and was designated as sample “E”.

Tensile Test—The ASTM D 638 Type IV specimens were used for the tensile property evaluation of samples A-E. Tensile properties were determined from the average of six (6) specimens. An Instron Model 4505 Test System was used to conduct this evaluation. Crosshead speed was 5.0 mm/min. The results are listed in Table I.

Free Radical Concentration Measurement—All free radical measurement was conducted before the accelerated aging treatment. The specimens are 3 mm diameter, 10 mm long cylinders. This evaluation was carried out at the University of Memphis (Physics Department). Free radical concentration was measured and calculated from average of three (3) specimens. Free radical measurements were performed using electron spin resonance technique. This is the only technique that can directly detect free radicals in solid and aqueous media. An ESR spectrometer (Bruker EMX) was used in this evaluation.

Oxidation Resistance Measurement—Oxidation index/profile measurement was performed after accelerated aging using the protocol per ASTM F 2003 (5 atm 02 pressure at 70° C. for 14 days) on specimens machined into 90×20×10 mm thick rectangular blocks from the center of the rods. The oxidation analysis was performed on a Nicolet model 750 Magna-IR™ spectrometer per ASTM F2102-01 using an aperture 100 μm×100 μm and 256 scans. An oxidation index was defined by the ratio of the carbonyl peak area (1660 to 1790 cm−1) to the 1370 cm−1 peak area (1330 to 1390 cm−1). A through-the-thickness (10 mm) oxidation index profile is generated from an average of three (3) specimens. The 0 and 10 mm depths represent upper and lower surfaces of specimens. The maximum oxidation index of each specimen was used to determine if there was a significant difference.

Statistical Analysis—Student's t Test—Test of Significance—A student's t test (two-tail, unpaired) was conducted to measure statistical significance at the 95% confidence level (p<0.05).

Tensile Test Results

TABLE 1
Comparison Of Tensile Properties, N = 6
Yield Ultimate
Strength Strength Elongation at
Sample Material (MPa) (MPa) Break (%)
A GUR 1020 24.9 ± 0.6 59.3 ± 1.5 301 ± 7
B GUR 1050 25.6 ± 0.4 54.8 ± 1.2 255 ± 7
C GUR 1020 25.2 ± 0.1 57.0 ± 2.3 372 ± 10
D GUR 1050 24.5 ± 0.2 56.4 ± 4.0 370 ± 10
E GUR 1050 23.9 ± 0.4 51.0 ± 2.1 214 ± 5

The sequential process of samples “A” and “B” maintains both tensile yield and ultimate strength (when compared to their respective counterparts samples C and D). Consequently, the null hypothesis that sequential process maintains (p=0.001) tensile strengths was verified. Results also indicated that a sequential process improved elongation at break in radiation-crosslinked GUR 1050 by 19% (p=0.001) over a process that produced crosslinking by a single-dose delivery of 90 kGy (non-sequentially) and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours (sample E).

The sequential crosslinking reduces free radical concentration in radiation-crosslinked GUR 1020 and 1050 by 87% (p=0.001) and 94% (p=0.001), respectively when comparing to their respective N2VAC™ process counterparts, samples C and D. The sequential crosslinking process also reduces free radical concentration in radiation-crosslinked GUR 1050 by 82% (p=0.001) over a process that produced crosslinking by a single-dose delivery of 90 kGy (non-sequentially) and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours (sample E).

The sequential crosslinking process reduces the maximum oxidation index in radiation crosslinked GUR 1020 and 1050 by 82% (p=0.001) and 86% (p=0.001), respectively (when compared to control samples C and D). The process also reduces the maximum oxidation index in radiation-crosslinked GUR 1050 by 74% (p=0.001) over a process that produced crosslinking by a single-dose delivery of 90 kGy (non-sequentially) and annealed at 130° C. for at least 8 hours (sample E). The sequential irradiation and annealing process maintains the original tensile yield and ultimate strengths reduces free radical concentration and improves oxidation resistance. It is believed that sequential cross-linking is a gentler process than a single dose process.

Furthermore, this process has significant benefits over a single-dose delivery of 90 kGy (non-sequentially) and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours in at least three areas. First there is a lower free radical concentration, second a better oxidation resistance and third a better tensile elongation.

While the preferred process is three sequential applications of 30 kGy each followed by annealing at 130° C. for eight (8) hours, a two step process of 30 kGy to 45 kGy radiation applied twice, each followed by an annealing at about 130° C. for about 8 hours may be used.

If it is desired to have an additional sterilization step after the sequential irradiation and annealing of the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene preformed part or packaged final part then the part may be sterilized via non-irradiative methods such as ethylene oxide or gas plasma and then packaged or repackaged and shipped in the standard manner.

EXAMPLE IV

Effect of Sequential Cross-Link Dose on the Physical Properties of UHMWPE.

Materials and Methods—Medical-grade UHMWPE extruded bars (GUR 1050, Perplas Medical), with a weight average molecular weight of 5×106 Daltons and a diameter of 83 mm were used for all subsequent treatments. The GUR 1050 bars had a total original length of 5 meters and were extruded from the same polymer and extrusion lots. These bars were cut into 460 mm long sections and irradiated with gamma ray at room temperature in ambient air.

The treatments of these materials are listed in Table 3. The terminologies 1× means a single cycle of irradiation and annealing and 2× and 3× denote that the materials received the sequential cross-link process, two and three times, respectively; these materials received a nominal dose of 3.0 MRads during each step of radiation. Annealing was done at 130° C. for 8 hours after each radiation dose.

Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)—DSC samples were cut from machined 1 mm thick sheets. Specimens (˜4 mg) were heated from 50° C. at heating rate of 10 C/min in a Perkin-Elmer DSC 7 to 175° C. The melting temperature was determined from the peak of the melting endotherm. The heat of fusion was calculated through an integration of the area under the melting endotherm between 60° C. and 145° C. Crystallinity was calculated using the abovementioned heat of fusion divided by 288 J/g, the heat of fusion of an ideal polyethylene crystal.

Results and Discussion—The measured melting temperature and crystallinity are listed in Table 2. After the three consecutive sequential cross-link process; materials received 3.0, 6.0 and 9.0 MRads total gamma-radiation showed no change in crystallinity when comparing to material that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen (58% v 57.6%) while remelting caused a significant decrease in crystallinity from 57% to 48%.

TABLE 2
Melting
Temperature, Crystallinity,
Treatment ° C. %
No Radiation 135.8 ± 0.1 54.3 ± 0.7
3.0 MRads single dose in a 139.9 ± 0.2 57.6 ± 0.8
Container with less than
0.5% oxygen
1X cross-linked and 140.1 ± 0.2 56.7 ± 0.9
annealed one time,
3.0 MRads
2X sequentially cross-link 141.1 ± 0.1 57.4 ± 0.6
and annealed, 6.0 MRads
3X sequentially cross-link 142.3 ± 0.1 58.0 ± 0.9
and annealed, 9.0 MRads
5 MRads single dose 137.0 ± 0.2 48.2 ± 0.7
cross-link, remelted at
150° C. for 8 hours
10 MRads single dose 139.7 ± 0.2 48.6 ± 0.6
cross-link, remelted at
150° C. for 8 hours

EXAMPLE V

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Tensile Properties of UHMWPE.

Materials and Methods—The materials for tensile property evaluation are the same as the physical property materials described in Example IV above. Six tensile specimens were machined out of the center of the 83 mm diameter bars according to ASTM F648, Type IV and 1 mm thick. Tensile property evaluation was carried out on an electromechanical Instron model 4505 universal test frame at a speed of 50 mm/inch. The treatments of these materials are listed in Table 2.

Results and Discussion—The tensile properties (yield strength, ultimate strength and elongation at break) are illustrated in Table 3. The sequential cross-link process increased tensile yield strength following each treatment. This process also maintained ultimate tensile strength in a cross-link UHMWPE while remelt processes significantly decreased both yield and ultimate strengths when comparing to samples that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen.

TABLE 3
Yield Strength Ultimate Elongation at
Treatment (MPa) Strength (MPa) Break (%)
No radiation 21.4 ± 0.5 52.2 ± 3.1 380 ± 18
3.0 MRads single 24.5 ± 0.2 54.6 ± 4.0 356 ± 14
dose in a container
with less than 0.5%
oxygen
1X cross-link and 22.7 ± 0.2 50.4 ± 2.8 338 ± 10
annealed, a single
time 3.0 MRads
2X sequentially 23.5 ± 0.5 52.2 ± 3.9 299 ± 11
cross-link and
annealed, 6.0 MRads
total dose
3X sequentially 25.6 ± 0.4 54.8 ± 1.2 255 ± 7
cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads
total dose
5 MRads single dose 21.3 ± 0.3 48.2 ± 3.1 297 ± 8
cross-link,
remelted at 150° C.
for 8 hours
10 MRads single 21.6 ± 0.4 43.6 ± 0.7 260 ± 12
dose cross-link
remelted at 150° C.
for 8 hours

EXAMPLE VI

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Wear Properties of UHMWPE Acetabular Cups

Materials and Methods—Two types of UHMWPE materials, ram extruded GUR 1050 bars (83 mm diameter) and compression molded GUR 1020 sheets (51 mm×76 mm cross-section were treated). The sequential cross-link process was performed on the GUR 1050 materials either 2 or 3 times and on GUR 1020 material 3 times only. The nominal radiation dose for each radiation/annealing cycle was 3.0 MRads. A current standard product, Trident™ design 32 mm acetabular cup (manufactured by Howmedica Osteonics Corp. from GUR 1050 bar stock) sterilized under a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen, was used as a reference material.

All acetabular cups were fabricated according to prints for the Trident™ design 32 mm insert (Howmedica Osteonics Corp. Cat. No. 620-0-32E). The standard cobalt chrome femoral heads (6260-5-132) were obtained, these femoral heads were of matching diameter to the insert inside diameter of 32 mm.

An MTS 8-station hip simulator was used to perform the wear test. The cups were inserted into metal shells as in vivo. The shells were then secured into polyethylene holders that were in turn fitted onto stainless steel spigots. Each head was mounted onto a stainless steel taper that was part of a reservoir containing a fluid serum media. The serum reservoir was mounted on a 23-degree inclined block. A standard physiological cyclic load between two peak loads of 0.64 and 2.5 kN at 1 Hz was applied to all cups. This cyclic load was applied through the central axes of the cup, head and block.

The serum used for this test was a fetal-substitute alpha calf fraction serum (ACFS) diluted to a physiologically relevant value of about 20 grams per liter of total protein. A preservative (EDTA) about 0.1 vol. % was added to minimize bacteria degradation. Each reservoir contained about 450 milliliters of abovementioned ACFS with EDTA. This fluid in the reservoir was replaced with fresh ACSS with EDTA every 250,000 cycles. During the fluid replacement process, the samples were removed from the machine, cleaned and weighed.

Results and Discussion—The wear rate of each treatment is illustrated in Table 4; the measurement unit given is cubic millimeters per million cycles (mm3/mc). The wear rate was corrected for the effect of fluid absorption. The cups subject to the 2× and 3× sequential cross-link processes significantly reduced wear rate in UHMWPE acetabular cups by 86 to 96% when comparing to cups that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen.

TABLE 4
Wear Rate Reduction in Wear
Treatment (mm3/mc) Rate (%)
GUR 1050 received 3.0 MRads 37.6  NA
in a container with less
than 0.5% oxygen (a
reference material)
GUR 1050 received 2X 5.3 86
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 6.0 MRads total
GUR 1050 received 3X 1.4 96
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads total
GUR 1020 received 3X 2.5 93
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads

EXAMPLE VII

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Free Radical Concentration in UHMWPE.

Materials and Methods—The materials for free radical concentration evaluated were:

1. GUR 1050 that received 3.0 MRads in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen (A reference material).

2. GUR 1050 that received 2×(6.0 MRads) sequentially cross-link and annealed.

3. GUR 1050 that received 3×(9.0 MRads) sequentially cross-link and annealed.

4. GUR 1050 that received a 9.0 MRads single total dose of cross-link radiation and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours.

The specimens are 3 mm diameter, 10 mm long cylinders fabricated from abovementioned components. This evaluation was carried out at the University of Memphis (Physics Department, Memphis, Tenn.). Free radical concentration was measured and calculated from an average of three (3) specimens. Free radical measurements were performed using electron spin resonance technique. This is the only technique that can directly detect free radicals in solid and aqueous media. A top-of-the-line ESR spectrometer (Bruker EMX) was used in this evaluation.

Results and Discussion—The free radical concentration in the materials is illustrated in Table 5; the measurement unit given is spins per grams (spins/g). The materials subjected to the 2× and 3× sequential cross-link processes showed a significant reduction in free radical concentration about 94 to 98% when comparing to a GUR 1050 material that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen. The materials subjected to the 2× and 3× sequential cross-link processes also showed a significant reduction in free radical concentration about 82 to 92% when comparing to a GUR 1050 material that received a 9.0 MRads total dose of gamma-radiation and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours.

TABLE 5
Reduction in
Free Radical Free Radical
Concentration Concentration
Treatment (10E + 14 spins/g) (%)
GUR 1050 received 3.0 MRads 204 ± 14 NA
in a container with less than
0.5% oxygen (a reference
material)
GUR 1050 received 2X  5 ± 1 98
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 6.0 MRads
GUR 1050 received 3x  12 ± 1 94
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads
GUR 1050 received 9.0 MRads  67 ± 4 67
cross-link and annealed 130° C.
for 8 hours

EXAMPLE VIII

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Oxidation Resistance Property of UHMWPE.

Materials and Methods—The materials for oxidation resistance evaluation were:

1. GUR 1050 that received 3.0 MRads in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen (A reference material).

2. GUR 1050 that received 3×(9.0 MRads) sequentially cross-link and annealed.

3. GUR 1050 that received a 9.0 MRads single total dose of cross-link radiation and annealed at 130° for 8 hours.

An accelerated aging protocol per ASTM F 2003 (5 atm oxygen pressure at 70° C. for 14 days) was carried out at Exponent Failure Analysis Associates (Philadelphia, Pa.). The specimens were machined 90×20×10 mm rectangular blocks. The oxidation analysis was performed on a Nicolet model 750 Magna-IR™ spectrometer per ASTM F2102-01 using an aperture 100 μm×100 μm and 256 scans. An oxidation index was defined by the ratio of the carbonyl peak area (1660 to 1790 cm−1) to the 1370 cm−1 peak area (1330 to 1390 cm−1). A through-the-thickness (10 mm) oxidation index profile was generated from an average of three (3) specimens. The 0 and 10 mm depths represented surfaces of specimens. The maximum oxidation index of each specimen was used to determine if there was a significant difference.

Results and Discussion—Oxidation index profiles and the maximum oxidation index are illustrated in FIG. 1 and Table 6, respectively. The GUR 1050 materials subjected to the 3× sequential cross-link process showed a significant reduction in both an oxidation index profile and maximum oxidation index. The sequential cross-link process significantly reduced the maximum oxidation index in 3× GUR 1050 by 86% when comparing to a GUR 1050 material that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen. The GUR 1050 materials subjected to the 3× sequential cross-link process also showed a significant reduction in maximum oxidation index by 72% when comparing to a GUR 1050 material that received a 9.0 MRads total dose of gamma-radiation and annealed at 130° C. for 8 hours.

TABLE 6
Maximum
Treatment Oxidation Index
GUR 1050 received 3.0 MRads in a 2.60 ± 0.02
container with less than 0.5% oxygen
(a reference material)
GUR 1050 received 3X sequentially 0.36 ± 0.02
cross-link and annealed, 9.0 MRads
GUR 1050 received 9.0 MRads cross-link 1.29 ± 0.03
and annealed 130° C. for 8 hours

EXAMPLE IX

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Wear Properties of Direct Compression Molded UHMWPE Tibial Inserts.

Materials and Methods—All direct compression molded (DCM) and machined Howmedica Osteonics Corp. Scorpio® PS tibial inserts were fabricated from GUR 1020 UHMWPE. DCM Scorpio® PS direct molded tibial inserts were treated with the sequential cross-link process (radiation and annealing) two times (2×), a nominal dose of 4.5 MRads during each step of radiation. The total accumulation of gamma-radiation in these components was 9.0 MRads. These components were packaged in an air impermeable pouch with less than 0.5% oxygen. Scorpio® PS tibial inserts (Howmedica Osteonics Corp. Cat. No. 72-3-0708) were machined from compression molded GUR 1020 material and obtained from an in-house order. These components then received gamma-radiation sterilization at a nominal dose of 3.0 MRads in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen. Wear test was performed on an MTS knee simulator according to an ISO standard 14243 Part 3.

Results and Discussion—The wear test results are illustrated in Table 7; the measurement unit given is cubic millimeters per million cycles (mm3/mc). The wear rate was corrected for the effect of fluid absorption. The DCM Scorpio® PS tibial inserts subjected to the 2×(4.5 MRad) sequential cross-link process significantly reduced wear rate in UHMWPE tibial inserts by 88% when comparing to Scorpio® PS tibial inserts that received a 3.0 MRads gamma-radiation in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen.

TABLE 7
Reduction
Wear Rate in Wear
Treatment (mm3/mc) Rate (%)
Scorpio ® PS machined from 32.6 ± 6.8 NA
compression molded GUR 1020,
received 3.0 MRads in a
container with less than
0.5% oxygen (a reference
material)
DCM Scorpio ® PS GUR 1020  3.8 ± 0.1 88
received 2X (4.5 MRads)
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads total

EXAMPLE X

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Free Radical Concentration in Direct Compression Molded UHMWPE Tibial Inserts.

Materials and Methods—The materials for free radical concentration evaluation are the same as the wear test materials described in Example IX, above. The specimens are 3 mm diameter, 10 mm long cylinders fabricated from abovementioned components. This evaluation was carried out at the University of Memphis (Physics Department, Memphis, Tenn.). Free radical concentration was measured and calculated from an average of three (3) specimens. Free radical measurements were performed using electron spin resonance technique. This is the only technique that can directly detect free radials in solid and aqueous media. A top-of-the-line ESR spectrometer (Bruker EMX) was used in this evaluation.

Results and Discussion—The free radical concentration in the materials is illustrated in Table 8; the measurement unit given is spins per gram (spins/g). The DCM Scorpio® PS tibial inserts subjected to the 2×(4.5 MRads) sequential cross-link processes showed a significant reduction in free radical concentration of 97% when comparing to a Scorpio® PS machined from compression molded GUR 1020 that received a 3.0 MRads of gamma-radiation sterilization in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen.

TABLE 8
Reduction in
Free Radical Free Radical
Concentration Concentration
Treatment (10E + 14 spins/g) (%)
Scorpio ® PS machined from 325 ± 28 NA
compression molded GUR
1020, received 3.0 MRads in
a container with less than
0.5% oxygen (a reference
material)
DCM Scorpio ® PS GUR 1020  9 ± 0 97
received 2X (4.5 MRads)
sequentially cross-link and
annealed, 9.0 MRads total

EXAMPLE XI

Effect of Sequential Cross-link Dose on the Oxidation Resistance of Direct Compression Molded UHMWPE Tibial Inserts.

Materials and Methods—The materials for oxidation resistance evaluation are the same as the wear test materials described in Example IX, above. An accelerated aging protocol per ASTM F 2003 (5 atm oxygen pressure at 70° C. for 14 days) was carried out at Howmedica Osteonics (Mahwah, N.J.). The specimens were machined and sequentially cross-link 2×(4.5 MRads) DCM Scorpio® PS tibial inserts. The oxidation analysis was performed on a Nicolet model 750 Magna-IR™ spectrometer per ASTM F2102-01 using an aperture 100 μm×100 μm and 256 scans. An oxidation index was defined by the ratio of the carbonyl peak area (1660 to 1790 cm−1) to the 1370 cm−1 peak area (1330 to 1390 cm−1). A through-the-thickness (about 6 mm) oxidation index profile was generated from an average of three (3) specimens. The 0 and 6 mm depths represented articulating and back surfaces of specimens. The maximum oxidation index of each specimen was used to determine if there was a significant difference.

Results and Discussion—Oxidation index profiles and the maximum oxidation index are illustrated in FIG. 2 and Table 9, respectively. The DCM Scorpio® PS tibial inserts subjected to the 2×(4.5 MRads) sequential cross-link processes showed a significant reduction in an oxidation index profile and maximum oxidation index. The sequential cross-link process reduced the maximum oxidation index in 2×(4.5 MRads) DCM GUR 1020 Scorpio® PS tibial inserts by 90% when comparing to a Scorpio® PS machined from compression molded GUR 1020 that received a 3.0 MRads of gamma-radiation sterilization in a container with less than 0.5% oxygen.

TABLE 9
Maximum
Treatment Oxidation Index
Scorpio ® PS machined from compression 0.30 ± 0.02
molded GUR 1020, received 3.0 MRads in
a container with less than 0.5% oxygen
(a reference material)
GUR 1020 received 2X (4.5 MRads) 3.10 ± 0.03
sequentially cross-link and annealed,
9.0 MRads total

Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification522/161, 623/23.58
International ClassificationC08J7/00, A61L27/00, A61L27/16, C08J3/28
Cooperative ClassificationC08L2312/06, C08L23/06, A61L27/16
European ClassificationA61L27/16
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